In the days after Thanksgiving, lamenting summer’s end, I walked the desolate landscape at Brant Lake with my neighbor Alex. November is always a melancholy month, the sky gray, the winds ready to bring the first snowfall. As we crossed over the fields, we arrived at a dirt road with deep ruts in still soft earth. It had been an especially wet August and heavy loggers’ vehicles, pick-up trucks with hunters out for their quota of deer, and off-road 4 x 4 Fords, had carved these ruts.
Alex and I followed the road, breathing in the rich aroma of freshly cut pine and cedar, to be sent across the country, when suddenly he stopped, his gaze fixed on jagged ruts running through the woods. “Dan, this reminds me of one season when I was walking in the North Woods at this time. There were similar ruts, maybe even more severe than these, beginning to dry in the early winter gusts. A truck from the local highway department drove by, then stopped abruptly at the head of the road. Two men in heavy wool pants, one man with a white beard streaming over a red and black check parka, got out of the truck and, straining, lifted a metal sign and tall pole from the back.
“Walking carefully among the soggy ruts they stopped by the side of the road and, with iron mallets, hammered the post securely into the ground. Then, wiring sign to post, they inspected their handy work before returning to their truck and driving off.
“Curious about what sign would be relevant in this deserted landscape I approached. On a freshly painted bright orange background stark black letters reflected in the sun. They were words of caution for those venturing along the dramatically scarred roads: “Be Careful of the Rut you Choose. You May be in it a Long Time!'”
Alex smiled and I thought to myself, “Be careful”–whatever the road you travel.